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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 08:33 GMT 09:33 UK
Would you vote online?
E-voting could replace the traditional ballot box by 2006, a government report has suggested.
Online polling, accompanied by postal votes and voting by telephone, would replace ballot papers and ballot boxes under the plan.
Commons leader Robin Cook wants to develop online voting as means of attracting the under-40s back to the democratic process.
But critics say that technology alone cannot reignite interest in politics.
Can e-voting reverse the low turn out in local and national elections? Would it encourage more young people to vote? Or do you feel that it is merely a gimmick?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I've worked in IT for over 30 years, have stood for Parliament, have been a local councillor, and have campaigned in elections many times. There are two vital conditions. The first is that the system must be equally accessible to all. I do not want a political bias in favour of those most likely to use new technology to vote. (I think my party might gain by such bias, but I don't want it to.) The second condition is that e-voting must be at least as secure against abuse and error - by voters, parties or authorities - as the present system is. Every part of the process must be auditable. Every part of the process, except that which identifies how an individual voted, must be published. .
I think the day is coming when we will all sit in our dark little homes and never have to interact with another human being throughout our life. So, briefly, no.
Stephen Hollinshead, England
I don't vote offline. What makes Politicians think I'll vote online? Until they learn honesty and to keep their election promises it will just be a waste of time. Democracy as practiced in the west is a total sham.
No, I personally wouldn't vote online, The act of walking to the polling station, and physically casting my vote, is an important part of the ritual to me. However for disabled, or otherwise housebound people it could be useful, and governments in future would not be able to disregard their wishes so easily.
How could I as a candidate or agent see into people's homes to see who was voting, and more importantly, whether or not they were being coerced? How could I see into the computer system to see that all the votes are actually being counted, and are being correctly allocated?
If you can answer these questions, then I would consider e-voting. As it is, I wouldn't trust it an inch for a real election.
Giving me some decent choices is the only thing that will make me vote!
I bank online. I buy all of my books, CDs and DVDs online. I order library books online. I even order pizza online! I have never had a problem or a worry about security. I would think nothing of voting online too; as far as I'm concerned it's a natural extension. It would be quick, simple, easy and would fit in with doing other things. Pop home, check your email, vote, catch the headlines. I hope it happens.
Si Bishop, England
The government has just withdrawn the option to submit tax returns via the web because the system didn't work. Web-based voting would devalue the system.
Unfortunately I don't think it will encourage more people to vote as many people just don't care or are just too busy complaining about the government to bother to vote.
I'm in my mid-40s and certainly would vote online if I could. It's not just young people who would be prepared to bring elections into the 21st century.
No. The present system requires much manual labour in counting but that means that any major abuse should be spotted by someone. With computer voting it only requires the figures to be altered by one dishonest person in a position to have access or a hacker and no-one would ever know.
Everything about polling stations is off-putting and old-fashioned. Even the signs that sit outside look as if they've been dusted off from World War II. I half expect to be told the butter ration has been cut again when I'm handed my voting paper.
Technology makes things virtual, and that cannot replace the physical mark on a ballot paper; the honesty of the human touch.
This government has already shown itself willing to lie over every other matter - who would police the vote? They are so in awe of Microsoft I would wager a considerable sum on that organisation being paid to set it all up. In the IT world there is a well known phrase: Security or Microsoft - pick one.
Our county trialled the e-vote in the last local elections. So on polling day I find my voting info giving me my PIN number for the e-vote, only to see the website for voting closed a full two days before polling day! So after all that I couldn't take advantage of what I feel is a revelation in the polling stations and still had to juggle my day in order to fit in the trip to the local polling station.
In parts of Sheffield during the last local elections it was possible to vote via text or email. I've yet to see the results of this, but myself and all my friends voted using text and email. It was very easy and fitted in with what ever you were doing. The sooner this is put in place the better.
it is always in the interest of the individual to have an opportunity to express their opinion. Only then can England deem itself amongst the top democratic societies on the planet.
Voting online is an excellent idea. I missed voting in the last election because I suddenly had to work late due to a colleague's illness. I started work at 6am and didn't finish until nearly 11pm. My polling station is 14 miles away from where I work, so I couldn't get there and back in time to do it during the day.
Jan Lapeire, Belgium
During the recent council elections, my borough had electronic voting. I was treated to the spectacle of a council worker 'helping' an elderly gentleman through the process. She looked over his shoulder throughout the multiple votes. I fear municipal workers will use these systems to monitor how we vote.
I would not (and do not) vote - period.
None of the parties come close to matching my values; they are mostly a bland copy of each other with some minor differences. If you want to encourage responsible voting, it will take more than gimmicks.
Andy M, England
I too would vote online, for the same reason that I read my news online, manage my finances online, and do a lot of my shopping online - convenience.
Voting in this country is supposed to be anonymous. With the government insisting on ISP snooping on the internet, the voting could be monitored and would not remain a secret. This information could then be used against the individual by the less scrupulous members of society.
I would be interested to know who would get the contract to develop the systems to handle online voting. So far the government's choices have produced overpriced flaky systems!
They don't quite seem to understand why people are not voting. It isn't because they can't be bothered. It's working all hours of the day to make a decent living and also because we don't trust politicians anymore. Try asking the people why.
I'm all for alternative methods of voting. Last time around, I left for work before the polling station opened, and I had an evening class which meant I didn't get back until after it had closed. I would have happily voted had I been able. Of course, this raises the question of whether voting has any effect, but I think that's for a different debate.
I wouldn't vote online because I simply wouldn't trust the technology. What happens if the server crashes halfway through polling day?
I've been peripherally involved in the development of a safe, secure online voting system. I know, therefore, that it can be done. I know, too, in answer to Adam, UK's question about servers crashing, that it's quite possible to have enough duplication that one server crashing won't materially affect things.
Phillip Holley, UK
Of course the turnout will be higher, young people like me can't be bothered walking to a polling station, but if it takes a few moments online, the turnout will be far higher. And hopefully if we get a different crowd voting we might actually get a decent government in power instead of the old liars that we normally have.
Sorry, but I don't agree that a higher turnout is necessarily better. Voting is a hugely important decision to make and should not be done on a whim by a text message over a pint at your local or through your TV during the adverts. If people can't be bothered to send a postal ballot or take a short walk to the polling station, what makes Robin Cook think they will bother putting any thought into who to vote for?
Sarah, Reading, UK
I'm highly sceptical as I don't believe there are adequate security measures. I agree with Chris Neville-Smith about whether a higher turnout is necessarily a good thing. Just because you get millions of young people voting for Pop Idol and Big Brother doesn't mean that this would be suitable for general elections. At least the fickleness in those votes only affects a few desperate wannabes. A general election affects the whole country. Politicians must get the general public interested in politics again and then they'll vote after serious consideration.
Of course I would vote online, I'm lazy!!
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